July 18, 2012
America is still trying to save us from ourselves, but is that such a sin?
I’m referring to the Sweet Tooth Tax that Congress is looking to generate more than $15 billion a year, save us from getting fat, and reduce health risks.
(The cost for a 20-ounce soft drink would increase by 15 to 20 percent.)
Health experts agree that Americans consume too much sugar, about 22 teaspoons daily or 355 calories, when you need only six calories.
The health problems that could result are juvenile diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
The tax would apply to non-diet soft drinks, energy drinks, sports beverages and many ice teas.
The money would fund programs to fight those diseases, and might just get some people to reexamine their sugar choices.
You might expect it to meet some resistance in the soft drink industry and Coca-Cola C.E.O., Muhtar Kent, in a New York Times article, weighs in:
“I have never seen it work where a government tells people what to eat and what to drink,” he told the Rotary Club of Atlanta. “If it worked, the Soviet Union would still be around.”
Taxing food that could be unhealthy is not new.
Egyptian Pharaoh's tax collectors, known as scribes, imposed a tax on cooking oil.
James Madison would probably have voted against a sugar tax, since he used one of their same arguments, in 1794, saying that any "sin tax" is likely to be a burden on the poor, since they're most prone to unhealthy behavior.
(Call it the double whammy defense.)
With all due respect, the plans on the table do not tell us what we should drink; they are concerned with what we should not drink—sugary beverages, what critics call “liquid candy.”
Some say that if you’re not addressing the massive Government corn subsidy, which turns into high fructose corn syrup and then put into soda, you’re not getting to the heart of it.
Kevin W. Keane, senior vice president for public affairs of the American Beverage Association, says it is wrongheaded to single out soda: “When it comes to losing weight, all calories count, regardless of the food source.”
While Kelly Brownell, an early advocate, director of the Rudd Center for Obesity at Yale, said in an interview on ABC TV that this tax would have a powerful impact on the Nation’s obesity problem.
I know it's a large order, but I hope we can discuss taxes without making it too taxing.